We all know that dogs need regular exercise. However, no matter how much we love our family pets the daily walk can start to feel like a chore! Let’s take a look at a few ideas to get the most enjoyment out of walking your dog.
1 Find a place to walk which you both enjoy
No matter where you live, it is always possible to find interesting places to walk. We might dream of green fields and forests to stroll through but cities and towns can also provide great places to exercise your dog.
Walking down the street might seem boring, but there are as many sights and smells for your dog to investigate on the pavement as there are in open fields! Built-up areas can also provide more variety in your walks – it is easy to change the route when there are many different streets available. Look for quiet residential areas away from traffic and enjoy a wander through the leafy suburbs of your local area.
Most cities and towns have green spaces such as parks, however it is important to check that you are permitted to take your dog into them. You may even be lucky enough to have a dog park near your house, which can be great places for dogs to play and exercise. Parks can be busy areas, with other people and dogs, so it is important that your dog is well trained and not easily distracted.
For many people, walking in the countryside is the ultimate dream – miles of tracks, fresh air and close to nature! If you are heading off somewhere new then make sure that you prepare properly. Research the route to make sure it is legal for you to access where you want to go. Check the weather forecast and pack appropriate clothing for you and your dog.
When walking in the countryside, make sure that you respect the property you are walking on and obey the rules. Keep your dog on a short leash near livestock and nesting birds. Stick to permitted paths and tracks – don’t be tempted to go off exploring into unauthorised territory!
Getting out and about
Getting bored of the same old routes near your home? Try looking slightly further afield and you might be pleasantly surprised! Speak to other dog owners in your area to swap suggestions of new routes. Often a short journey can open up a whole new range of walking routes for you and your dog.
If you don’t have access to a car or want to keep costs down, you might be able to take your dog for a short trip on public transport to find a new walking route. Other dog owners might be interested in a car share to explore new areas. If you take your dog to work then try exploring areas along your daily commute, or consider walking some of the route home.
In the digital age it is easy to find inspiration for new walks. There are numerous websites dedicated to finding walking routes, and plotting a route is simple with one of the many mobile phone navigation apps available.
2 Be prepared
Make sure you’ve got everything you might need on your walk – having a designated walking bag can be very helpful here! For a quick stroll around the block then a few poop bags should be all you need, but if you are venturing further afield then you it would be wise to pack the following:
- Poop bags
- Water for you and your dog. Dog water bottles with dispensers are extremely practical.
- Dog toys – a ball launcher is a favorite toy for most dogs!
- Dog jacket or raincoat – depending on weather conditions and how sensitive your pooch is
- Reflective clothing for you and your dog
- Waterproof clothing for you and your dog
- Navigation equipment – a map or GPS app for your mobile phone
If you are venturing away from your normal route it is also advisable to let someone else know where you are going and the time you expect to be back.
3 Use the right collar and leash for your dog
When going on walks, it is important that you use the right leash for every different situation. If you are walking on busy streets you need a short leash to keep your pooch close by your side. Pick a leash which is comfortable for you to hold and fits easily in your hand. Make sure it is strong enough not to snap if your dog pulls suddenly, but not so big that it hangs heavily on the collar.
In parks or countryside retractable leads can be a great option for allowing your dog more freedom. However, these are not a good option for dogs who pull on the leash or those which don’t have good recall training.
If you are struggling with control while out walking or your dog is pulling, there are many different types of leashes and harnesses available to help. These include back clip harnesses, front clip harnesses and head halters. Often a change of harness and a few simple training sessions can bring about a huge improvement, leading to more enjoyable walks for both you and your dog.
4 Prepare your dog
Good training and socialization are the foundation stones of a happy and enjoyable dog walk. If your dog pulls on the leash or you are constantly worrying that you might meet another dog then the walk can quickly become a stressful part of your day. Joining a socialization or training class can be a great way to iron out any problems here.
5 Walking for health
The best advice we can give is to put your mobile phone away and make the most of your walk! Walking your dog doesn’t just give your favorite pooch a chance to stretch their legs; daily exercise is also beneficial to your own physical and mental health.
Dog walking burns an impressive 200-250 calories per hour – not bad for an ‘essential’ daily chore! Walking also strengthens muscles and bone, lowers blood pressure, and improves cardiovascular fitness.
Regular walking is hugely beneficial to your mental health; it reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue and improves self-esteem, mood, and sleep quality. Use your dog walk as an opportunity to practice being mindful and ‘in the moment’ – enjoy the freedom from technology and outside pressures. Take the time to enjoy nature and notice seasonal changes on your local streets, park, or countryside walks.
6 Make the walk fun
While it is important that your dog is well trained and obedient, don’t forget that life is about having fun as well! A walk at heel round the block does little to provide your dog with mental stimulation, so try some of these ideas to add entertainment into your walk:
- Let your dog lead the way for a change: It can be fun to allow your dog to take the initiative occasionally! This gives them the chance to pick where they go in the park and stop and sniff where they want.
- Change your pace: Build up some excitement and energy burning exercises by adding in some short sprints or a brisk walking pace. Similar to interval training, this will keep your dog on his toes as he anticipates the next run.
- Training exercises: Most dogs love to please, and playing about with some training during your walk can be a great way to provide mental stimulation. This could be as simple as sit-stay exercises with a treat for a reward. You could even start to incorporate some agility or scent training into your time at the park. Try tossing some treats into longer grass and have fun watching your dog trying to sniff them out!
7 Exercising with your dog
Many of us regularly go for a run, and taking your dog can be a great way for you to exercise together. Running with your dog can be physically and emotionally rewarding for you both. Some breeds are more suited to this than others, such as athletic breeds like Labrador Retrievers.
If you decide to run with your dog it is essential to find a safe route for you both. Begin training by building up your dog’s exercise levels gradually to avoid injuries. Gradually increase the speed and length of your run until you get to a pace you are both comfortable with. Take water for both of you and make sure your dog gets a rest if he appears tired or panting.
8 Running free
There is no greater pleasure than watching your dog running free! However, for many of us it can be difficult to give them this opportunity. It may be that you don’t have access to a safe place to allow your dog off the leash. You might also feel worried that your dog could get up to mischief without you by his side.
Before allowing your dog to run free it is important that they are fully socialized and well trained. Good recall is essential – do you trust your dog to come back to you even if another dog approaches? Your dog might be the best trained and friendliest pooch in the world but other dogs may not be as obedient or well behaved.
To find a place for your dog to run free, try speaking to other dog owners or local pet experts to see if they have any suggestions. Many areas now have designated dog parks, and some kennels and dog trainers have secure dog paddocks available to hire. If you have friends with dogs then you could club together to hire a facility for a doggy play date!
Enjoy your dog walk!
We hope we’ve given you some great ideas of how to keep your daily dog walk fun and interesting. For your dog, the walk may well be the highlight of his day, so take a look at how you can both make the most of this time together!